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Micah Fairchild Intuit’s Payroll for Small Businesses Leads Review Channel Launch

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 By Micah Fairchild

Intuit’s Payroll Review Leads Payrolllab’s Small Business Hub

As part of ongoing efforts to improve our research and deliver the most value to readers, is excited to announce a new channel hub that will be specifically devoted to small business payroll software solutions. In large part this new initiative is driven by the fact that, unfortunately for small businesses, dedicating limited resources and retaining in-house expertise for payroll software selection can be cost-prohibitive. Yet the goal of finding the right payroll solution is also one of paramount importance. Not only is this the case because of financial and regulatory implications, but also in terms of the countless hours and effort the right system will save. This new hub has been designed to help small businesses reach that goal, and features’s trusted and independent reviews—starting off with Intuit.

Intuit’s Small Business Payroll Solutions: An Independent Review

Thanks to accounting and tax software packages such as QuickBooks, Intuit is one of the most well-recognized players in the small business technology space. And although Ceridian, Paychex, and SurePayroll tend to take up the bulk of marketing fodder, Intuit can lay claim to a sizeable portion of the small business market share with over 1M customers. Indeed, Intuit has been a major player in the small business software market for some time now, but after the 2009 acquisition of one of their biggest (and most lauded) rivals (PayCycle), Intuit now has the brand strength and underlying technology to be able to offer the full range of payroll applications and services. And while there aren’t particularly standout aspects of the Intuit solution compared with the other vendors in the space, Intuit can provide a payroll solution to fit nearly any scenario that a small business might have.

Intuit’s Payroll Options

Currently, Intuit offers a range of payroll options with a range of prices.

  • QuickBooks Basic Payroll: The absolute lowest option that a small business can choose, this solution is essentially just a glorified calculator. That said, other features do include the ability to print checks or use direct deposit (both for additional fees); integrate with QuickBooks; and receive Intuit support. Pricing for this solution is $199.20 to start plus an additional fee of $1.45 per employee for direct deposit.

  • Online Payroll Basic: The next tier up is still decidedly more basic than most small businesses will desire, but does add-on the capability to forego direct deposit fees; export data to QuickBooks rather than just integrating with the software; and receive year-end forms and help. Pricing for this solution is $25 per month.

  • QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll: Per Intuit representatives, this option is the best if your company prefers to handle tax filings on its own, but still wants to pay and file electronically. From Online Payroll Basic, feature set additions though are limited and only include the capability to have federal and state tax forms filled in. Granted, Payroll Enhanced includes federal payroll tax forms W-2, W-3, 940/Schedule A, 941/Schedule B, 944/945a, 943/943a, and adds in forms 1099-MISC and 1096, but independent contractors can still not be paid via this tier. Also, it should be noted that this option is only recommended for businesses that plan on paying 3 (that’s right 3!) employees at most at a time. If more employees are on the company payroll, or high turnover is expected, Intuit recommends moving up to the next solution tier. Pricing for this option is $343.20 to start plus an additional fee of $1.45 per employee for direct deposit.

  • Online Payroll Plus: What Intuit considers the next tier in their payroll solutions is actually exactly the same functionality-wise as QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll but allows for 4 or more employees to be paid at the same time. Pricing for this solution sits at $39 per month.

  • QuickBooks Assisted Payroll: The option that will appeal to most small businesses interested in an Intuit solution is this one. Featuring the add-ons of Intuit’s tax filing services as well as the guarantee that no tax penalties will be assessed are big pluses, but this tier also brings with it the capabilities of running payroll reports (with job costs and profitability figures by project) and tracking workers’ compensation data. Intuit also bills as an add-on the functionalities of its Employee Organizer (which handles basic HR administration/compliance) and includes in the monthly subscription price a multi-state employee option and W-2 forms. These small additions though will cost you significantly though—jumping the price from a reasonable $79 per month to $135 per month.

  • Full Service Payroll: The final Intuit option is basically their version of payroll outsourcing. At $99 per month, this means that all that employers have to enter is the payroll data itself. Of course this option also allows for free direct deposit and the addition of local taxes, but feature-wise, there isn’t that much difference between this option versus their Assisted Payroll.

Prospective buyers should note though that, while not advertised, additional fees per employee apply to each of the solutions listed above. For instance, most often, additional employees beyond the limit set by Intuit will run $1.50 extra per staff member. And if state lines are being crossed and additional $12 will be levied. One of the frequently cited complaints about the Intuit solution is a lack of fee transparency, so it’s best to make sure prior to purchase what your chosen solution’s monthly bill will be exactly.

Additional Functionalities

Adding to the multitude of options that Intuit has for payroll, the company also provides the capabilities (and separate module) for Online Time Tracking (which includes password-protected timesheets; a multi-user time clock; and full integration with Intuit’s payroll line so that hours can be easily reviewed, authenticated, and, if need be, adjusted). Pricing for this module typically sits around $2 per employee/per month, although special introductory offers are available.

Also available as a separate option for the Intuit payroll solution set is “Pay-as-you-go” Workers’ Compensation; a tool that allows companies to automatically pay workers' compensation premiums each pay day (calculated off actual payroll runs rather than an estimation which requires one large pre-payment). And while not all companies will be keen on paying to user this type of service, at $5/month (irrespective of the employee population) the pricing structure is appealing. It should be noted though that the cost and set-up of this service does not include the premium cost for the actual workers’ compensation insurance (provided via an Intuit partnership with AP Intego).

Aside from workers’ compensation, small businesses choosing to leverage Intuit for their payroll needs can opt for the integrated Intuit 401(k) plan for an additional $75 (base price) per month that includes administration, record keeping, and investment offers via Morningstar Investment Services. This service, aside from providing assistance to employees, is also a Safe Harbor plan that exempts your company from having to pass 401(k) non-discrimination testing. For the uninitiated, this simply means that the Intuit plan has been designed to not adversely affect those employees who are not highly compensated. Just take note though that a mandatory dollar-for-dollar match is required on deferrals of at least 4% (of the employee compensation being deferred). Intuit also provides the additional benefit of Health Debit Cards which can be used as a cheaper (albeit different) alternative to traditional group insurance. While the specifics of this Intuit benefit are extensive, prospective buyers should note that this is simply a way to set aside tax-free funds for your employees to spend on basic healthcare expenses via debit card.

Intuit’s Strengths

  • System set-up and use is a particular strong suit of Intuit’s solutions, and compared to competitors offers one of the easiest solutions to navigate.
  • Extra services such as reporting and direct deposit are considered complimentary for Intuit customers.
  • While not fully optimized for tablets as of yet, Intuit’s mobile payroll applications (available for iOS and Android) represent one of the most well-developed platforms in the small business market.
  • As to be expected from the parent company, QuickBooks and Quicken are tightly integrated. However, Intuit also provides integration and export options for a range of other products as well; including Sage Peachtree and ATX.
  • Intuit Online Payroll is cloud-based software, meaning hardware for the application is handled by Intuit and installations/updates are automatically provided.
  • Like very few of its competitors, Intuit provides the option to automatically complete federal and state payroll tax forms for its customers at no charge.
  • Though customer churn is difficult to determine given the volatile nature of the small business market, Intuit does hold one of the industry’s highest customer satisfaction rates at 95%.
  • Intuit’s “Pay-as-you-go” Worker’s Compensation functionality is an incredibly useful add-on tool for small businesses in the retail, foodservice, and manufacturing industries.
  • Unlike many of its competitors, Intuit has a user community that offers peer-to-peer support.
  • Traditional support for Intuit’s solutions can be accessed every day of the week through an online specialist chat feature.

Intuit’s Weaknesses

  • Users that require reporting options that extend beyond Intuit’s standard package will likely have to resort to data manipulation through Excel.
  • One indication of its applicability to the micro-size segment of the small business market, is that Intuit’s access is limited to one user (logged into a client file) at a time.
  • Another salient aspect of Intuit’s target market is that company size is capped at 150 employees.
  • Supported hourly pay rates, while likely sufficient for most small businesses is limited to 8; as are garnishments, reimbursements, and commissions.
  • Organizations that have employees working in multiple states will have to purchase a separate module to be able to handle this functionality.
  • While theoretically an issue that won’t necessarily be experienced by new Intuit buyers, long-term users have indicated that system upgrades and bug fixes have made for a clunky and time-consuming payroll process.
  • While plentiful compared to a number of its competitors, support services have been consistently ranked low by current customers.
  • An issue that has been reflected in other Intuit company product reviews (mainly dealing with the company’s credit services), hidden fees have been a long-standing point of contention for customers.

Short List Intuit If:

  • You’re a geographically dispersed (but U.S. national) organization that needs to leverage collaboration between sites.
  • You’re looking for the ability to utilize a cloud payroll platform with the option of outsourcing ancillary payroll tasks where possible.
  • You’re already leveraging Intuit’s accounting software for back-end tasks.
  • Seeking robust mobile payroll capabilities
  • Interested in leveraging a large user community to help with deployment, integration, and business-specific questions.

Consider an Alternative Payroll Solution When:

  • You are a larger small business that has greater than 150 employees.
  • You have multi-country payroll needs.
  • Seeking more robust healthcare benefits tie-ins that extend beyond Health Debit Cards and HSAs (Health Savings Accounts).
  • Your business’s payroll requirements involve a great deal of earnings/deduction code customization, or you handle a large population of hourly workers with varying pay rates.
  • Your needs include greater HR functionalities beyond the basic administrative capabilities that Intuit provides.End

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Author  Author: Micah Fairchild
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Intuit has been a major player in the small business software market for some time now, but after the 2009 acquisition of one of their biggest (and most lauded) rivals (PayCycle), Intuit now has the brand strength and underlying technology to be able to offer the full range of payroll applications and services."



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